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RUSSIAN FAIRY TALES 


DRAWINGS 

BY IGOR YERSHOV, KSENIA YERSHOVA 


PROGRESS PUBLISHERS EE MOSCOW 








TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN 


First printing 1973 
Second printing 1976 
Third printing 1981 



$ THE FIRE-BIRD 


3 



O nce upon a time there was a Tsar named Berendei, 
and he had three sons, the youngest of whom was 
called Ivan. 

Now the Tsar had a beautiful garden with an apple-tree in it 
that bore golden apples. 

One day the Tsar found that somebody was visiting his 
garden and stealing his golden apples. The Tsar was very 
unhappy about this. He sent watchmen into the garden, but they 
were unable to catch the thief. 

The Tsar was so grieved that he would not touch food or 
drink. His sons tried to cheer him. 

"Do not grieve. Father dear," they said, "we shall keep watch 
over the garden ourselves." 

Said the eldest son : "Today it is my turn to keep watch." 
And he went into the garden. He walked about for a long 
time but saw no one, so he flung himself down on the soft grass 
and went to sleep. 

In the morning the Tsar said to him : 

"Come, now, have you brought me good news? Have you 
discovered who the thief is?" 

"No, Father dear. That the thief was not there I am ready to 
swear. I did not close my eyes all night, but I saw no one." 




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On the following night the middle son went out to keep 
watch, and he, too, went to sleep and in the morning said he 
had seen no one. 

It was now the youngest son's turn to go and keep watch. 
Tsarevich Ivan went to watch his father's garden and he did not 
dare so much as to sit down, let alone lie down. If he felt that 
he was getting sleepy, he would wash his face in dew and 
become wide awake again. 

Half the night passed by, and all of a sudden what should 
he see but a light shining in the garden. Brighter and brighter 
it grew, and it lit up everything around. 

Tsarevich Ivan looked, and there in the apple-tree he saw 
the Fire-Bird pecking at the golden apples. 

Tsarevich Ivan crept up to the tree and caught the bird by 
the tail. But the Fire-Bird broke free of his grasp and flew 
away, leaving a feather from its tail in his hand. 

In the morning Tsarevich Ivan went to his father. 

"Well, my son, have you caught the thief?" asked the 
Tsar. 

"No, Father," said Tsarevich Ivan, "I have not caught him, 
but I have discovered who he is. See, he sends you this feather 
as a keepsake. The Fire-Bird is the thief. Father." 

The Tsar took the feather, and from that time he became 
cheerful again and began to eat and drink. But one fine day he 
fell to thinking about the Fire-Bird and, calling his sons to his 
side, said: 





"My dear sons, I would have you saddle your trusty steeds 
and set out to see the wide world. If you search in all its far 
corners, perhaps you will come upon the Fire- Bird." 

The sons bowed to their father, saddled their trusty steeds 
and set out. The eldest son took one road, the middle son 
another, and Tsarevich Ivan a third. 

Whether Tsarevich Ivan was long on the way or not, no one 
can say, but one day, it being summer and very warm, he felt 
so tired that he got off his horse and, binding its feet so that it 
could not go very far, lay down to rest. 

Whether he slept for a long time or a little time nobody 
knows, but when he woke up he found that his horse was gone. 
He went to look for it, he walked and he walked, and at last' 
he found its remains : nothing but bones, picked clean. Tsarevich 
Ivan was greatly grieved. How could he continue on his journey 
without a horse? 

"Ah, well," he thought, "it cannot be helped, and I must make 
the best of it." 

And he went on on foot. He walked and walked till he was 
so tired that he was ready to drop. He sat down on the soft 
grass, and he was very sad and woebegone. Suddenly, lo 
and behold! who should come running up to him but Grey 
Wolf. 

"Why are you sitting here so sad and sorrowful, Tsarevich 
Ivan?" asked Grey Wolf. 

"How can I help being sad. Grey Wolf! I have lost my trusty 
steed." 






"It was I who ate up your horse, Tsarevich Ivan. But I am 
sorry for you. Come, tell me, what are you doing so far from 

home and where are you going?" 

"My father has sent me out into the wide world to seek the 

Fire- Bird." 

"Has he now? Well, you could not have reached the 
Fire-Bird on that horse in three years. I alone know where 
it lives. So be it-since I have eaten up your horse, I shall 
be your true and faithful servant. Get on my back and hold 
fast." 

Tsarevich Ivan got on his bade and Grey Wolf was off in 
a flash. Blue lakes skimmed past ever so fast, green forests 
swept by in the wink of an eye, and at last they came to a castle 
with a high wall round it. 

"Listen carefully, Tsarevich Ivan," said Grey Wolf, "and 
remember what I say. Climb over that wall. You have nothing 
to fear-we have come at a lucky hour, all the guards are sleep- 
ing. In a chamber within the tower you will see a window, in 
that window hangs a golden cage, and in that cage is the Fire- 
Bird. Take the bird and hide it in your bosom, but mind you do 
not touch the cage ! " 

Tsarevich Ivan climbed over the wall and saw the tower with 
the golden cage in the window and the Fire-Bird in the cage. 
He took the bird out and hid it in his bosom, but he could not 
tear his eyes away from the cage. 

"Ah, what a handsome golden cage it is!" he thought 
longingly. "How can I leave it here!" 



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And he forgot all about the Wolf's warning. But the 
moment he touched the cage, a hue and cry arose within the 
castle-trumpets began to blow, drums began to beat, and the 
guards woke up, seized Tsarevich Ivan and marched him off to 
Tsar Afron. 

Who are you and whence do you hail?" Tsar Afron demand- 
ed angrily. 

"I am Tsarevich Ivan, son of Tsar Berendei." 

"Fie, shame on you! To think of the son of a tsar being 
a thief ! ” 

"Well, you should not have let your bird steal apples from 
our garden." 

"If you had come and told me about it in an honest way, 
I would have made you a present of the Bird out of respect for 
your father. Tsar Berendei. But now I shall spread the ill fame 
of your family far and wide. Or no-perhaps I will not, after 
all. If you do what I tell you, I shall forgive you. In a certain 
tsardom there is a Tsar named Kusman and he has a Horse 
with a Golden Mane. Bring me that Horse and I will make you 
a gift of the Fire-Bird and the cage besides." 

Tsarevich Ivan felt very sad and crestfallen, and he went 
back to Grey Wolf. 

"I told you not to touch the cage," said the Wolf. "Why did 
you not heed my warning?" 

"I am sorry. Grey Wolf, please forgive me." 

"You are sorry, are you? Oh, well, get on my back again. 


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I gave my word, and I must not go back on it. A truth that all 
good folk accept is that a promise must be kept." 

And off went Grey Wolf with Tsarevich Ivan on his back. 
Whether they travelled for a long or a little time nobody knows, 
but at last they came to the castle where the Horse with the 
Golden Mane was kept. 

"Climb over the wall, Tsarevich Ivan, the guards are asleep," 
said Grey Wolf. "Go to the stable and take the Horse, but mind 
you do not touch the bridle." 

Tsarevich Ivan climbed over the castle wall and, all the 
guards being asleep, he went to the stable and caught Golden 
Mane. But he could not help picking up the bridle-it was made 
of gold and set with precious stones -a fitting bridle for such 
a horse. 

No sooner had Tsarevich Ivan touched the bridle than a hue 
and cry was raised within the castle. Trumpets began to blow, 
drums began to beat, and the guards woke up, seized Tsarevich 
Ivan and marched him off to Tsar Kusman. 

"Who are you and whence do you hail?" the Tsar demanded. 

"I am Tsarevich Ivan." 

"A tsar's son stealing horses! What a foolish thing to do! 
A common peasant would not stoop to it. But I shall forgive 
you, Tsarevich Ivan, if you do what I tell you. Tsar Dalmat has 
a daughter named Yelena the Fair. Steal her and bring her to 
me, and I shall make you a present of my Horse with the 
Golden Mane and of the bridle besides." 


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Tsarevich Ivan felt more sad and crestfallen than ever, and 
he went back to Grey Wolf. 

"I told you not to touch the bridle, Tsarevich Ivan ! " said the 
Wolf. "Why did you not heed my warning?" 

"I am sorry. Grey Wolf, please forgive me." 

"Being sorry won't do much good. Oh, well, get on my back 

again." 

And off went Grey Wolf with Tsarevich Ivan. By and by 
they came to the tsardom of Tsar Dalmat, and in the garden of 
his castle Yelena the Fair was strolling with her women and 
maids. 

"This time I shall do everything myself," said Grey Wolf. 
"You go back the way we came and I will soon catch up with 
you." 

So Tsarevich Ivan went back the way he had come, and 
Grey Wolf jumped over the wall into the garden. He crouched 
behind a bush and peeped out, and there was Yelena the Fair 
strolling about with all her women and maids. After a time she 
fell behind them, and Grey Wolf at once seized her, tossed her 
across his back, jumped over the wall and took to his heels. 

Tsarevich Ivan was walking back the way he had come, 
when all of a sudden his heart leapt with joy, for there was 
Grey Wolf with Yelena the Fair on his back! "You get on my 
back too, and be quick about it, or they may catch us," said 
Grey Wolf. 

Grey Wolf sped down the path with Tsarevich Ivan and 
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fast, green forests swept by in the wink of an eye. Whether 
they were long on the way or not nobody knows, but by and by 
they came to Tsar Kusman's tsardom, 

"Why are you so silent and sad, Tsarevich Ivan?" asked Grey 
Wolf. 

"How can I help being sad. Grey Wolf! It breaks my heart 
to part with such loveliness. To think that I must exchange 
Yelena the Fair for a horse!" 

"You need not part with such loveliness, we shall hide her 
somewhere. I will turn myself into Yelena the Fair and you 
shall take me to the Tsar instead," 

So they hid Yelena the Fair in a hut in the forest, and Grey 
Wolf turned a somersault, and was at once changed into Yelena 
the Fair. Tsarevich Ivan took him to Tsar Kusman, and the Tsar 
was delighted and thanked him over and over again, 

"Thank you for bringing me a bride, Tsarevich Ivan," said 
he. "Now the Horse with the Golden Mane is yours, and the 
bridle too." 

Tsarevich Ivan mounted the horse and went back for Yelena 
the Fair. He put her on the horse's back and away they rode! 

Tsar Kusman held a wedding and feast to celebrate it and he 
feasted the whole day long, and when bedtime came he led his 
bride into the bedroom. But when he got into bed with her what 
should he see but the muzzle of a wolf instead of the face of his 
young wife ! So frightened was the Tsar that he tumbled out of 
bed, and Grey Wolf sprang up and ran away. 

He caught up with Tsarevich Ivan and said: 


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Why are you sad, Tsarevich Ivan?' 

How can I help being sad! I cannot bear to think of ex- 
changing the Horse with the Golden Mane for the Fire-Bird." 

"Cheer up, I will help you," said the Wolf. 

Soon they came to the tsardom of Tsar Afron. 

"Hide the horse and Yelena the Fair," said the Wolf. "I will 
turn myself into Golden Mane and you shall take me to Tsar 
Afron." 

So they hid Yelena the Fair and Golden Mane in the woods, 
and Grey Wolf turned a somersault and was changed into 
Golden Mane, Tsarevich Ivan led him off to Tsar Afron, and 
the Tsar was delighted and gave him the Fire-Bird and the 
golden cage too. 

Tsarevich Ivan went back to the woods, put Yelena the Fair 
on Golden Mane's back and, taking the golden cage with the 
Fire-Bird in it, set off homewards. 

Meanwhile Tsar Afron had the gift horse brought to him, 
and he was just about to get on its back when it turned into 
a grey wolf. So frightened was the Tsar that he fell down where 
he stood, and Grey Wolf ran away and soon caught up with 
Tsarevich Ivan. 

"And now I must say good-bye," said he, "for I can go no 
farther." 

Tsarevich Ivan got off the horse, bowed low three times, and 
thanked Grey Wolf humbly. 

"Do not say good-bye for good, for you may still have need 
of me," said Grey Wolf. 


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"Why should I need him again?" thought Tsarevich Ivan. 

"All my wishes have been fulfilled." 

He got on Golden Mane's back and rode on with Yelena the 
Fair and the Fire-Bird. By and by they reached his own native 
land, and Tsarevich Ivan decided to stop for a bite to eat. He 
had a little bread with him, so they ate the bread and drank 
fresh water from the spring, and then lay down to rest. 

No sooner had Tsarevich Ivan fallen asleep than his brothers 
came riding up. They had been to other lands in search of the 
Fire-Bird, and were now coming home empty-handed. 

When they saw that Tsarevich Ivan had got everything they 
said : 

"Let us kill our brother Ivan, for then all his spoils will be 


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And with that they killed Tsarevich Ivan. Then they got on 
Golden Mane's back, took the Fire-Bird, seated Yelena the Fair 
on a horse and said: 

"See that you say not a word about this at home!" 

So there lay Tsarevich Ivan on the ground, with the ravens 
circling over his head. All of a sudden who should come running 
but Grey Wolf. He ran up and he seized a raven and her 
fledgling. 

"Fly and fetch me dead and living water. Raven," said the 
Wolf. "If you do, I shall let your nestling go." 

The Raven flew off— what else could she do?— while the Wolf 
held her fledgling. Whether a long time passed by or a little 
time nobody knows, but at last she came back with the dead 







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and living water. Grey Wolf sprinkled the dead water on Tsare- 
vich Ivan's wounds, and the wounds healed. Then he sprinkled 
him with the living water, and Tsarevidi Ivan came back to life. 

"Oh, how soundly I slept l' said he. 

"Aye," said Grey Wolf, "and but for me you would never 
have wakened. You^bwn brothers killed you and took away 
all your treasures. Get on my back, quick." 

They went off in hot pursuit, and they soon caught up the 
two brothers, and Grey Wolf tore them to bits and scattered 
the bits over the field. 

Tsarevich Ivan bowed to Grey Wolf and took leave of him 
for good. 

He rode home on the Horse with the Golden Mane, and he 
brought his father the Fire-Bird and himself a bride- Yelena 
the Fair. 

Tsar Berendei was overjoyed and asked his son all about 
everything. Tsarevich Ivan told him how Grey Wolf had helped 
him, and how his brothers had killed him while he slept and 
Grey Wolf had torn them to bits. 

At first Tsar Berendei was sorely grieved, but he soon got 
over it. And Tsarevich Ivan married Yelena the Fair and they 
lived together in health and cheer for many a long and 
prosperous year. 





19 



ong, long ago there was a Tsar who had three sons. One 
day, when his sons were grown to manhood, the Tsar 
called them to him and said: "My dear sons, while yet I am 
not old I should like to see you married and to rejoice in the 
sight of your children and my grandchildren." 

And the sons replied : 

"If that is your wish. Father, then give us your blessing. Who 
would you like us to marry?" 

"Now then, my sons, you must each of you take an arrow and 
go out into the open field. You must shoot the arrows, and 
wherever they fall, there will you find your destined brides." 

The sons bowed to their father and, each of them taking an 
arrow, went out into the open field. There they drew their bows 
and let fly their arrows. 

The eldest son's arrow fell in a boyar's courtyard and was 
picked up by the boyar's daughter. The middle son's arrow fell 
in a rich merchant's yard and was picked up by the merchant's 
daughter. And as for the youngest son, Tsarevich Ivan, his 
arrow shot up and flew away he knew not where. He went in 
search of it and he walked on and on till he reached a marsh, 
and what did he see sitting there but a Frog with the arrow in 
its mouth. Said Tsarevich Ivan to the Frog: 


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"Frog, Frog, give me back my arrow." 

But the Frog replied : 

"I will if you marry me ! ' 

"What do you mean, how can I marry a frog!" 

"You must, for I am your destined bride." 

Tsarevich Ivan felt sad and crestfallen. But there was nothing 
to be done, and he picked up the Frog and carried it home. 

Three weddings were celebrated: his eldest son the Tsar 
married to the boyar's daughter, his middle son, to the mer- 
chant's daughter, and poor Tsarevich Ivan, to the Frog. 

Some little time passed, and the Tsar called his sons to his 
side. 

"I want to see which of your wives is the better needle- 
woman," said he. "Let them each make me a shirt by tomorrow 
morning." 

The sons bowed to their father and left him. 

Tsarevich Ivan came home, sat down and hung his head. And 
the Frog hopped over the floor and up to him and asked : 

"Why do you hang your head, Tsarevich Ivan? What is it 
that troubles you?" 

"Father bids you make him a shirt by tomorrow morning." 

Said the Frog : 

"Do not grieve, Tsarevich Ivan, but go to bed, for morning 
is wiser than evening." 

Tsarevich Ivan went to bed, and the Frog hopped out on to 
the porch, cast off its frog skin and turned into Vasilisa the 
Wise and Clever, a maiden fair beyond compare. 




She clapped her hands and cried; 

"Come, my women and maids, make haste and set to work! 
Make me a shirt by tomorrow morning, like those my own 
father used to wear," 

In the morning Tsarevidi Ivan awoke, and there was the 
Frog hopping on the floor again, but the shirt was all ready and 
lying on the table wrapped in a handsome towel. Tsarevich Ivan 
was overjoyed. He took the shirt and he went with it to his 
father who was busy receiving his two elder sons' gifts. 
The eldest son laid out his shirt, and the Tsar took it and 
said: 

"This shirt will only do for a poor peasant to wear." 

The middle son laid out his shirt, and the Tsar said; 

"This shirt will only do to go to the baths in." 

Then Tsarevich Ivan laid out his shirt, all beautifully 
embroidered in gold and silver, and the Tsar took one look at 
it and said; 

"Now that is a shirt to wear on holidays!" 

The two elder brothers went home and they spoke among 
themselves and said; 

"It seems we were wrong to laugh at Tsarevich Ivan's wife. 
She is no frog, but a witch." 

Now the Tsar again called his sons. 

"Let your wives bake me some bread by tomorrow morning," 
said he. "I want to know which of them is the best cook." 

Tsarevich Ivan hung his head and went home. And the Frog 
asked him: 




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"Why are you so sad, Tsarevich Ivan?" 

Said Tsarevich Ivan: 

"You are to bake some bread for my father by tomorrow 
morning," 

"Do not grieve, Tsarevich Ivan, but go to bed. Morning is 
wiser than evening." 

And her two sisters -in- law, who had laughed at the Frog at 
first, now sent an old woman who worked in the kitchen to see 
how she baked her bread. 

But the Frog was clever and guessed what they were up to. 
She kneaded some dough, broke off the top of the stove and 
threw the dough down the hole. The old woman ran to the two 
sisters-in-law and told them all about it, and they did as the 
Frog had done. 

And the Frog hopped out on to the porch, turned into Vasilisa 
the Wise and Clever and clapped her hands. 

"Come, my women and maids, make haste and set to 
work!" cried she, "By tomorrow morning bake me some 
soft white bread, the kind I used to eat at my own father's 
house." 

In the morning Tsarevich Ivan woke up, and there was the 
bread all ready, lying on the table and prettily decorated with 
all manner of things: stamped figures on the sides and towns 
with walls and gates on the top. 

Tsarevich Ivan was overjoyed. He wrapped up the bread 
in a towel and took it to his father who was just receiving the 
loaves his elder sons had brought. Their wives had dropped the 




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dough into the stove as the old woman had told them to do, and 
the loaves came out charred and lumpy. 

The Tsar took the bread from his eldest son, he looked at it 
and he sent it to the servants' hall. He took the bread from his 
middle son, and he did the same with it. But when Tsarevich 
Ivan handed him his bread, the Tsar said : 

"Now that is bread to be eaten only on holidays!" 

And the Tsar bade his three sons come and feast with him on 
the morrow together with their wives. 

Once again Tsarevich Ivan came home sad and sorrowful, 
and he hung his head very low. And the Frog hopped over the 
floor and up to him and said : 

"Croak, croak, why are you so sad, Tsarevich Ivan? Is it that 
your father has grieved you by an unkind word?" 

"Oh, Frog, Frog!" cried Tsarevich Ivan. "How can I help 
being sad? The Tsar has ordered me to bring you to his feast, 
and how can I show you to people ! * 

Said the Frog in reply: 

"Do not grieve, Tsarevich Ivan, but go to the feast alone, 
and I will follow later. When you hear a great tramping and 
thundering, do not be afraid, but if they ask you what it is, say : 
'That is my Frog riding in her box.'" 

So Tsarevich Ivan went to the feast alone, and his elder 
brothers came with the wives who were all dressed up in their 
finest clothes and had their brows blackened and roses painted 
on their cheeks. They stood there, and they made fun of Tsare- 
vich Ivan. 




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26 



"Why have you come without your wife?" asked they. "You 
could have brought her in a handkerchief. Wherever did you 
find such a beauty? You must have searched all the swamps 
for her." 

Now the Tsar with his sons and his daughters-in-law and all 
the guests sat down to feast at the oaken tables covered with 
embroidered cloths. Suddenly there came a great tramping and 
thundering, and the whole palace shook and trembled. The 
guests were frightened and jumped up from their seats. But 
Tsarevich Ivan said: 

"Do not fear, honest folk. That is only my Frog riding in her 
box." 

And there dashed up to the porch to the Tsar's palace a gilded 
carriage drawn by six white horses, and out of its stepped 
Vasilisa the Wise and Clever. Her gown of sky-blue silk was 
studded with stars, and on her head she wore the bright crescent 
moon, and so beautiful was she that it could not be pictured and 
could not be told, but was a true wonder and joy to behold! 
She took Tsarevich Ivan by the hand and led him to the oaken 
tables covered with embroidered cloths. 

The guests began eating and drinking and making merry. 
Vasilisa the Wise and Clever drank from her glass and poured 
the dregs into her left sleeve. She ate some swan meat and threw 
the bones into her right sleeve. And the wives of the elder sons 
saw what she did and they did the same. 

They ate and drank and then the time came to dance. Vasilisa 
the Wise and Clever took Tsarevich Ivan by the hand and began 


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to dance. She danced and she whirled and she circled round and 
round, and everyone watched and marvelled. She waved her left 
sleeve, and a lake appeared; she waved her right sleeve, and 
white swans began to swim upon the lake. The Tsar and his 
guests were filled with wonder. 

Then the wives of the two elder sons began dancing. They 
waved their left sleeves, and only splashed mead over the 
guests; they waved their right sleeves, and bones flew about 
on all sides, and one bone hit the Tsar in the eye. And the Tsar 
was very angry and told both his daughters-in-law to get out of 
his sight. 

In the meantime, Tsarevidi Ivan slipped out, ran home and, 
finding the frog skin, threw it in the stove and burnt it. 

Now Vasilisa the Wise and Clever came home, and she 
at once saw that her frog skin was gone. She sat down on 
a bench, very sad and sorrowful, and she said to Tsarevich 
Ivan: 

"Ah, Tsarevich Ivan, what have you donel Had you but 
waited just three more days, I would have been yours for 
ever. But now farewell. Seek me beyond the Thrice-Nine 
Lands in the Thrice-Ten Tsardom where lives Koshchei the 
Deathless." 

And Vasilisa the Wise and Clever turned into a grey cuckoo- 
bird and flew out of the window. Tsarevich Ivan cried and wept 
for a long time and then he bowed to all sides of him and went 
off he knew not where to seek his wife, Vasilisa the Wise and 
Clever. Whether he walked far or near, for a Iona time or a little 


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time, no one knows, but his boots were worn, his caftan frayed 
and torn, and his cap battered by the rain. After a while he met 
a little old man who was as old as old can be. 

Good morrow, good youth!" quoth he. "What do you seek 
and whither are you bound?" 

Tsarevich Ivan told him of his trouble, and the little old man, 
who was as old as old can be, said : 

"Ah, Tsarevich Ivan, why did you burn the frog skin? It was 
not yours to wear or to do away with. Vasilisa the Wise and 
Clever was born wiser and cleverer than her father, and this 
so angered him that he turned her into a frog for three years. 
Ah, well, it can't be helped now. Here is a ball of thread for 
you. Follow it without fear wherever it rolls." 

Tsarevich Ivan thanked the little old man who was as old as 
old can be, he went after the ball of thread, and he followed it 
wherever it rolled. In an open field he met a bear. He took aim 
and was about to kill it, but the bear spoke up in a human voice 
and said: 

"Do not kill me, Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may 
have need of me some day." 

Tsarevich Ivan took pity on the bear, let him go and himself 
went on. By and by he looked, and lo! -there was a drake 
flying overhead. Tsarevich Ivan took aim, but the drake said to 
him in a human voice : 

"Do not kill me, Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may 
have need of me some day ! " 


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And Tsarevich Ivan spared the drake and went on. Just then 
a hare came running. Tsarevich Ivan took aim quickly and was 
about to shoot it, but the hare said in a human voice : 

"Do not kill me, Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may 
have need of me some day!" 

And Tsarevich Ivan spared the hare and went farther. He 
came to the blue sea and he saw a pike lying on the sandy shore 
and gasping for breath. 

"Take pity on me, Tsarevich Ivan," said the pike. "Throw 
me back into the blue sea!" 

So Tsarevich Ivan threw the pike into the sea and walked on 
along the shore. Whether a long time passed by or a little time 
no one knows, but by and by the ball of thread rolled into a 
forest, and in the forest stood a little hut on chicken's feet, spin- 
ning round and round. 

"Little hut, little hut, stand as once you stood, with your face 
to me and your back to the wood," said Tsarevich Ivan. 

The hut turned its face to him and its back to the forest, and 
Tsarevich Ivan entered, and there, on the edge of the stove 
ledge, lay Baba-Yaga the Witch with the Switch, in a pose she 
liked best, her crooked nose to the ceiling pressed. 

What brings you here, good youth?" asked Baba-Yaga. "Is 
there aught you come to seek? Come, good youth, I pray you, 
speak ! " 

Said Tsarevich Ivan* 

First give me food and drink, you old hag, and steam me 
in the bath, and then ask your questions." 




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So Baba-Yaga steamed him in the bath, gave him food and 
drink and put him to bed, and then Tsarevich Ivan told her that 
he was seeking his wife, Vasilisa the Wise and Clever. 

"I know where she is,' said Baba-Yaga, "Koshchei the 
Deathless has her in his power. It will be hard getting her back, 
for it is not easy to get the better of Koshchei. His death is at 
the point of a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg in a duck, 
the duck in a hare, the hare in a stone chest and the chest at the 
top of a tall oak-tree which Koshchei the Deathless guards as 
the apple of his own eye.' 

Tsarevich Ivan spent the night in Baba-Yaga's hut, and in 
the morning she told him where the tall oak-tree was to be 
found. Whether he was long on the way or not no one knows, 
but by and by he came to the tall oak-tree. It stood there and 
it rustled and swayed, and the stone chest was at the top of it 
and very hard to reach. 

All of a sudden, lo and behold! -the bear came running and 
it pulled out the oak-tree, roots and all. Down fell the chest, 
and it broke open. Out of the chest bounded a hare and away 
it tore as fast as it could. But another hare appeared and gave it 
chase. It caught up the first hare and tore it to bits. Out of the 
hare flew a duck, and it soared up to the very sky. But in a 
trice the drake was upon it and it struck the duck so hard 
that it dropped the egg, and down the egg fell into the blue 
sea. 

At this Tsarevich Ivan began weeping bitter tears, for how 
could he find the egg in the sea ! But all at once the pike came 


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swimming to the shore with the egg in its mouth, Tsarevich 
Ivan cracked the egg, took out the needle and began trying to 
break off the point. The more he bent it, the more Koshchei 
the Deathless writhed and twisted. But all in vain. For Tsarevich 
Ivan broke off the point of the needle, and Koshchei fell down 
dead. 

Tsarevich Ivan then went to Koshchei's palace of white stone. 
And Vasilisa the Wise and Clever ran out to him and kissed him 
on his honey-sweet mouth. And Tsarevich Ivan and Vasilisa the 
Wise and Clever went back to their own home and lived together 
long and happily till they were quite, quite old. 



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O nce upon a time there lived an old man who had three 
sons. The two elder sons were well-favoured young 
who liked to wear fine clothes and were thrifty husband- 
men, but the youngest Ivan the Fool, was none of those things, 
spent most of his time at home sitting on the stove ledge 
only going out to gather mushrooms in the forest. 

When the time came for the old man to die, he called his 
sons to his side and said to them : 

'When I die, you must come to my grave every night for 
nights and bring me some bread to eat." 

The old man died and was buried, and that night the time 
for the eldest brother to go to his grave. But he was too 
or else too frightened to go, and he said to Ivan the Fool : 

"If you will only go in my stead to our father's grave tonight, 
Ivan, I shall buy you a honey-cake." 

Ivan readily agreed, took some bread and went to his father's 
He sat down by the grave and waited to see what would 
happen. On the stroke of midnight the earth crumbled apart 
the old father rose out of his grave and said : 

"Who is there? Is it you, my first-born? Tell me how every- 
thing fares in Rus : are the dogs barking, the wolves howling or 
child weeping?" 

And Ivan replied: 

"It is I, your son. Father. And all is quiet in Rus." 


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Then the father ate his fill of the bread Ivan had brought and 
lay down in his grave again. As for Ivan, he went home, stop- 
ping to gather some mushrooms on the way. 

When he reached home, his eldest brother asked: 

"Did you see our father?" 

"Yes, I did," Ivan replied. 

"Did he eat of the bread you brought?" 

"Yes. He ate till he could eat no more." 

Another day passed by, and it was the second brother's turn 
to go to the grave. But he was too lazy or else too frightened 
to go, and he said to Ivan : 

"If only you go in my stead, Ivan, I shall make you a pair 
of bast shoes." 

"Very well," said Ivan, "I shall go." 

He took some bread, went to his father's grave and sat there 
waiting. On the stroke of midnight the earth crumbled apart 
and the old father rose out of the grave and said: 

"Who is there? Is it you, my second-bom? Tell me how 
everything fares in Rus : are the dogs barking, the wolves howl- 
ing or my child weeping?" 

And Ivan replied: 

“It is I, your son. Father. And all is quiet in Rus." 

Then the father ate his fill of the bread Ivan had brought and 
lay down in his grave again. And Ivan went home, stopping to 
gather some mushrooms on the way. He readied home and his 
second brother asked him: 

"Did our father eat of the bread you brought?" 

Yes," Ivan replied. "He ate till he could eat no more," 


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On the third night it was Ivan's turn to go to the grave and 
he said to his brothers : 

"For two nights I have gone to our father's grave. Now it is 
your turn to go and I will stay home and rest." 

"Oh, no," the brothers replied. "You must go again, Ivan, 
for you are used to it." 

"Very well," Ivan agreed, "I shall go." 

He took some bread and went to the grave, and on the stroke 
of midnight the earth crumbled apart and the old father rose 
out of the grave. 

"Who is there?" said he. 'Is it you, Ivan, my third-bom? 
Tell me how everything fares in Rus : are the dogs barking, the 
wolves howling or my chil d weeping?" 

And Ivan replied; 

"It is I, your son Ivan, Father. And all is quiet in Rus." 

The father ate his fill of the bread Ivan had brought and 
said to him: 

"You were the only one to obey my command, Ivan. You were 
not afraid to come to my grave for three nights. Now you must 
go out into the open field and shout: 'Chestnut-Grey, hear and 
obey! I call thee nigh to do or die!' When the horse appears 
before you, climb into his right ear and come out of his left, 
and you will turn into as comely a lad as ever was seen. Then 
mount the horse and go where you will.' 

Ivan took the bridle his father gave him, thanked him and 
went home, stopping to gather some mushrooms on the way. 
He reached home and his brothers asked him: 

'Did you see our father, Ivan?" 


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39 




"Yes, I did/ Ivan replied. 

"Did he eat of the bread you brought?" 

"Yes, he ate till he could eat no more and he bade me not to 
go to his grave any more/ 

Now, at this very time the Tsar had a call sounded abroad 
for all handsome, unmarried young men to gather at court. The 
Tsar's daughter. Tsarevna Lovely, had ordered a castle of twelve 
pillars and twelve rows of oak logs to be built for herself. And 
there she meant to sit at the window of the top chamber and 
await the one who would leap on his steed as high as her 
window and place a kiss on her lips. To him who succeeded, 
whether of high or of low birth, the Tsar would give Tsarevna 
Lovely, his daughter, in marriage and half his tsardom besides. 

News of this came to the ears of Ivan's brothers, who agreed 
between them to try their luck. 

They gave a feed of oats to their goodly steeds and led them 
from the stables, and themselves put on their best apparel and 
combed down their curly locks. And Ivan, who was sitting on 
the stove ledge behind the chimney, said to them : 

"Take me with you, my brothers, and let me try my luck, 
too/ 

"You silly sit-on-the-stove!" laughed they. "You will only 
be mocked at if you go with us. Better go and hunt for mush- 
rooms in the forest/ 

The brothers mounted their goodly steeds, cocked their hats, 
gave a whistle and a whoop and galloped off down the road in 
a cloud of dust. And Ivan took the bridle his father had given 





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him, went out into the open field and shouted as his father had 
told him: 

"Chestnut- Grey, hear and obey! I call thee nigh to do or 
die!" 

And, lo and behold! a charger came running towards him. 
The earth shook under his hoofs, his nostrils spurted flame, and 
clouds of smoke poured from his ears. The charger galloped 
up to Ivan, stood stock-still and said : 

"What is your wish, Ivan?" 

Ivan stroked the steed's neck, bridled him, climbed into his 
right ear and came out through his left. And lo I he was turned 
into a youth as fair as the sky at dawn, the handsomest youth 
that ever was born. He got up on Chestnut-Grey's back and set 
off for the Tsar's palace. On went Chestnut-Grey with a snort 
and a neigh, passing mountain and dale with a swish of his 
tail, skirting houses and trees as quick as the breeze. 

When Ivan arrived at court, the palace grounds were teeming 
with people. There stood the castle of twelve pillars and twelve 
rows of oak logs, and in its highest attic, at the window of her 
chamber, sat Tsarevna Lovely. 

The Tsar stepped out on the porch and said : 

"He from amongst you, good youths, who leaps up on his 
steed as high as yon window and places a kiss upon my daugh- 
ter's lips, shall have her in marriage and half my tsardom 
besides." 

One after another the wooers of Tsarevna Lovely rode up 
and pranced and leaped, but, alas, the window was out of their 


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reach. Ivan's two brothers tried with the rest, but with no 
better success. 

When Ivan's turn came, he sent Chestnut- Grey at a gallop 
and with a whoop and a shout leapt up as high as the highest 
row of logs but two. On he came again and leapt up as high 
as the highest row but one. One more chance was left him, and 
he pranced and whirled Chestnut-Grey round and round till the 
steed chafed and fumed. Then, bounding like fire past her 
window, he took a great leap and placed a kiss on the honey- 
sweet lips of Tsarevna Lovely. And the Tsarevna struck his brow 
with her signet-ring and left her seal on him. 

The people roared: "Hold him! Stop him!" but Ivan and his 
steed were gone in a cloud of dust. 

Off they galloped to the open field, and Ivan climbed into 
Chestnut-Grey's left ear and came out through his right, and lol 
he was changed to his proper shape again. Then he let Chestnut- 
Grey run free and himself went home, stopping to gather some 
mushrooms on the way. He came into the house, bound his 
forehead with a rag, climbed up on the stove ledge and lay there 
as before. 

By and by his brothers arrived and began telling him where 
they had been and what they had seen. 

"Many were to wooers of the Tsarevna, and handsome, too," 
they said. "But one there was who outshone them all. He leapt 
up on his fiery steed to the Tsarevna's window and he kissed her 
lips. We saw him come, but we did not see him go." 

Said Ivan from his perch behind the chimney : 





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"Perhaps it was me you saw/ 

His brothers flew into a temper and said : 

"Stop your silly talk, fool! Sit there on your stove and eat 
your mushrooms." 

Then Ivan untied the rag that covered the seal from the 
Tsarevna's signet-ring and at once a bright glow lit up the hut. 
The brothers were frightened and cried: 

"What are you doing, fool? You'll burn down the house!" 

The next day the Tsar held a feast to which he summoned 
all his subjects, boyars and nobles and common folk, rich and 
poor, young and old. 

Ivan's brothers, too, prepared to attend the feast. 

"Take me with you, my brothers," Ivan begged. 

"What?" they laughed. "You will only be mocked at by all. 
Stay here on your stove and eat your mushrooms." 

The brothers then mounted their goodly steeds and rode 
away, and Ivan followed them on foot. He came to the Tsar's 
palace and seated himself in a far corner. Tsarevna Lovely now 
began to make the round of all the guests. She offered each 
a drink from the cup of mead she carried and she looked at 
their brows to see if her seal were there. 

She made the round of all the guests except Ivan, and when 
she approached him her heart sank. He was all smutted with 
soot and his hair stood on end. 

Said Tsarevna Lovely: 

"Who are you? Where do you come from? And why is your 
brow bound with a rag?" 





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"I hurt myself in falling/ Ivan replied. 

The Tsarevna unwound the rag and a bright glow at once lit 
up the palace, 

"That is my seal!" she cried. "Here is my betrothed!" 

The Tsar came up to Ivan, looked at him and said : 

"Oh, no. Tsarevna Lovely! This cannot be your betrothed! 
He is all sooty and very plain," 

Said Ivan to the Tsar; 

"Allow me to wash my face. Tsar." 

The Tsar gave him leave to do so, and Ivan came out into 
the courtyard and shouted as his father had taught him to : 

"Chestnut-Grey, hear and obey! I call thee nigh to do or die!" 

And lo and behold 1 Chestnut-Grey came galloping towards 
him. The earth shook under his hoofs, his nostrils spurted 
flame, and clouds of smoke poured from his ears. Ivan climbed 
into his right ear and came out through his left and was turned 
into a youth as fair as the sky at dawn, the handsomest youth 
that ever was born. All the people in the palace gave a great 
gasp when they saw him. 

No words were wasted after that. 

Ivan married Tsarevna Lovely, and a merry feast was held 
to celebrate their wedding. 




47 



O nce upon a time there lived an old man who had three 
sons, two of them clever young men and the third, 
Emelya, a fool. 

The two elder brothers were always at work, while Emelya 
lay on the stove ledge all day long with not a care in the world. 

One day the two brothers rode away to market, and their 
wives said: 

"Go and fetch some water, Emelya." 

And Emelya, lying on the stove ledge, replied : 

"Not 1. 1 don't want to." 

"Go, Emelya, or your brothers will bring no presents for 
you from the market." 

"Oh, all right then." 

Down climbed Emelya from the stove, put on his boots and 
caitan and, taking along two pails and an axe, went to the 
river. 

He cut a hole in the ice with his axe, scooped up two pailfuls 
of water, put down the pails and himself bent down to look into 
the ice-hole. He looked and he looked and what did he see but 
a Pike swimming in the water. Out shot his arm, and there was 
the Pike in his hands. 


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"We'll have some fine pike soup for dinner to-day!" he 
exclaimed, delighted. 

But the Pike suddenly spoke up in a human voice and 
said: 

"Let me go, Emelya, and I'll do you a good turn, too, some 
day," 

Emelya only laughed. 

"What good turn could you do me? No, think I'll take you 
home and tell my sisters-in-law to make some soup. I do so love 
pike soup." 

But the Pike fell to begging him again and said : 

"Do let me go, Emelya, and I'll do anything you wish." 

i 

"All right," Emelya replied, "only first you must prove you 
aren't trying to fool me." 

Said the Pike: "Tell me what you want, Emelya." 

* 

"I want my pails to go home all by themselves without spill- 
ing a drop of water." 

"Very well, Emelya," the Pike said, "Whenever you wish 
something, you have only to say : 

"'By will of the Pike, do as I like', and it will all be done 
at once." 

And Emelya, nothing; loath, said: 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go home, pails, by 
yourselves ! " 

And, lo and behold! the pails turned and marched up the 
hill. 




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Emelya put the Pike back into the ice-hole and himself 
walked after his pails. 

On went the pails along the village street, and the villagers 
stood round and marvelled while Emelya followed the pails, 
chuckling. The pails marched straight into Emelya's hut and 
jumped up on the bench, and Emelya climbed up on to the stove 
ledge again. 

A long time passed by and a little time, and his sisters-in-law 
said to Emelya : 

"Why are you lying there, Emelya? Go and chop us some 
wood." 

"Not 1. 1 don't want to," Emelya said. 

"If you don't do what we say, your brothers will bring no 
presents for you from the market." 

Emelya was loath to leave the stove ledge. He remembered 
the Pike and said under his breath : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Go and chop some wood, 
axe, and you, wood, come inside the house and jump into the 
stove, " 

And lo ! the axe leapt out from under the bench and into the 
yard and began to chop the wood, and the logs filed into the 
hut all by themselves and jumped into the stove. 

A long time passed by and a little time, and his sisters-in-law 
said to Emelya: 

"We have no more wood, Emelya. Go to the forest and cut 
some." 


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And Emelya, lolling on the stove, replied: 

"And what are you here for?" 

"What do you mean by that, Emelya?" the women said, 
"Surely it's not our business to go to the forest for wood." 

"But I don't much want to do it," Emelya said. 

"Well, then you won't get any presents," they told him. 

There was no help for it, so Emelya climbed down from the 
stove and put on his boots and caltan. He took a length of rope 
and an axe, came out into the yard and, getting into the sledge, 
cried : 

"Open the gates, women!" 

And his sisters-in-law said to him : 

"What are you doing in the sledge, fool? You haven't har- 
nessed the horse yet." 

"I can do without the horse," Emelya replied. 

His sisters-in-law opened the gate and Emelya said under 
his breath : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go the forest, 
sledge!" 

And, lo and behold ! the sledge whizzed out through the gate 
so quickly that one could scarcely have caught up with it even 
on horseback. 

Now the way to the forest lay through a town, and the sledge 
knocked down many people. The townsfolk cried: "Hold him! 
Catch him ! " But Emelya paid no heed and only urged the sledge 
on to go the faster. 



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He came to the forest, stopped the sledge and said : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Cut some dry wood, axe, 
and you, faggots, climb into the sledge and bind yourselves 
together." 

And, lo and behold! the axe began to hack and split the dry 
wood, and the faggots dropped into the sledge one by one and 
bound themselves together. Emelya then ordered the axe to cut 
him a cudgel, so heavy that one could scarcely lift it. He got up 
on top of his load and said : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go home, 
sledge ! " 

And the sledge drove off very fast indeed. Emelya again 
passed through the town where he had knocked down so many 
people, and there they were all ready and waiting for him. They 
seized him, pulled him out of the sledge and began to curse and 
to beat him. 

Seeing that he was in a bad plight, Emelya said under his 
breath : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Come, cudgel, give them 
a good thrashing!" 

And the cudgel sprang up and laid to, right and left. The 
townsfolk took to their heels and Emelya went home and 
climbed up on the stove again. 

A long time passed by and a little time, and the Tsar heard 
of Emelya's doings and sent one of his officers to find him and 
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The officer came to Emelya's village, entered his hut and 
asked him: 

"Are you Emelya the Fool?" 

And Emelya replied from the stove ledge : 

"What if I am?" 

"Dress quickly and I shall take you to the Tsar's palace." 

"Oh, no. I don't want to go," Emelya said. 

The officer flew into a temper and struck Emelya in the face. 
And Emelya said under his breath : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Come, cudgel, give him a 
good thrashing." 

And out the cudgel jumped and beat the officer so that it was 
all he could do to drag himself back to the palace. 

The Tsar was much surprised to learn that his officer had 
not been able to get the better of Emelya and he sent for the 
greatest of his nobles. 

"Find Emelya and bring him to my palace or I'll have your 
head chopped off," he said. 

The great noble bought a store of raisins and prunes and 
honey cakes, and then he came to the selfsame village and into 
the selfsame hut and he asked Emelya's sisters-in-law what it 
was Emelya liked best. 

"Emelya likes to be spoken to kindly," they said. "He will 
do anything you want if only you are gentle with him and 
promise him a red caitan for a present." 

The great noble then gave Emelya the raisins, prunes and 
honey cakes he had brought, and said : 


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Please, Emelya, why do you lie on the stove ledge? Come 
with me to the Tsar's palace." 

I'm well enough where I am," Emelya replied. 

’Ah, Emelya, the Tsar will feast you on sweetmeats and 
wines. Do let us go to the palace." 

Not 1. 1 don't want to," Emelya replied. 

But, Emelya, the Tsar will give you a fine red caltan for a 
present and a cap and a pair of boots." 

Emelya thought for a while and then he said : 

"Very well, then, I shall come. Only you must go on alone 
and I shall follow by and by." 

The noble rode away and Emelya lay on the stove a while 
longer and then said: 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go to the Tsar's 
palace, stove!" 

And lo! the corners of the hut began to crack, the roof 
swayed, a wall crashed down and the stove whipped off all by 
itself into the street and down the road and made straight for 
the Tsar's palace. 

The Tsar looked out of the window and marvelled. 

"What is that?" he asked. 

And the great noble replied : 

"That is Emelya riding on his stove to your palace." 

The Tsar stepped out on his porch and said; 

"I have had many complaints about you, Emelya. It seems 
you have knocked down many people." 

"Why did they get in the way of my sledge?" said Emelya. 


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Now, the Tsar's daughter Tsarevna Marya was looking out 
of the palace window just then, and when Emelya saw her, he 
said under his breath : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Let the Tsar's daughter fall 
in love with me." 

And he added ; 

"Go home, stove!" 

The stove turned and made straight for Emelya's village. It 
whisked into the hut and went bads to its place, and Emelya lay 
on the stove ledge as before. 

Meanwhile, there were tears and wails in the palace. Tsa- 
revna Marya was crying her eyes out for Emelya. She told her 
father she could not live without him and begged him to let her 
marry Emelya. The Tsar was much troubled and grieved and he 
said to the great noble : 

"Go and bring Emelya here, dead or. alive. Do not fail, or 
I'll have your head chopped off," 

The great noble bought many kinds of dainties and sweet 
wines and set off for Emelya's village again. He entered the 
selfsame hut and he began to feast Emelya royally. 

Emelya had his fill of the good food and the wine, and his 
head swimming, lay down and fell asleep. And the noble put 
the sleeping Emelya into his carriage and rode off with him to 
the Tsar's palace. 

The Tsar at once ordered a large barrel bound with iron 
hoops to be brought in. Emelya and Tsarevna Marya were 
placed into it and the barrel was tarred and cast into the sea. 











A long time passed by and a little time, and Emelya awoke. 
Finding himself in darkness and closely confined, he said : 

"Where am I?" 

And Tsarevna Marya replied: 

"Sad and dreary is our lot, Emelya my love ! They have put 
us in a tarred barrel and cast us into the blue sea." 

"And who are you?" Emelya asked. 

"I am Tsarevna Marya." 

Said Emelya : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Come, o wild winds, cast 
the barrel on to the dry shore and let it rest on the yellow sand ! " 

And, lo and behold! the wild winds began to blow, the sea 
became troubled and the barrel was cast on to the dry shore 
and it came to rest on the yellow sand. Out stepped Emelya and 
Tsarevna Marya, and Tsarevna Marya said : 

"Where are we going to live, Emelya my love? Do build us 
a hut of some kind." 

"Not 1. 1 don't want to," Emelya replied. 

But she begged and begged and at last he said : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Let a palace of stone with 
a roof of gold be built ! " 

And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a stone 
palace with a roof of gold rose up before them. Round it there 
spread a green garden, where flowers bloomed and birds sang. 
Tsarevna Marya and Emelya came into the palace and sat down 
by the window. 

Said Tsarevna Marya : 








"Oh, Emelya, couldn't you become a little more handsome?" 

And Emelya did not think long before he said : 

"By will of the Pike, do as I like! Change me into a tall and 
handsome man." 

And lo ! Emelya turned into a youth as fair as the sky at dawn, 
the handsomest youth that ever was born. 

Now about that time the Tsar went hunting and he saw 
a palace where one had never been seen before. 

"What dolt has dared to build a palace on my ground?" 
he asked, and he sent his messengers to learn who the culprit 
was. 

The Tsar's messengers ran to the palace, stood under the 

window and called to Emelya, asking him to tell them who 
he was. 

% 

"Tell the Tsar to come and visit me, and he shall hear from 
my lips who I am," Emelya replied. 

The Tsar did as Emelya bade, and Emelya met him at 
the palace gate, led him into the palace, seated him at his 
table and feasted him royally. The Tsar ate and drank and 
marvelled, 

"Who are you, my good fellow?" he asked at last, 

"Do you remember Emelya the Fool who came to visit you 
on top of a stove?" Emelya said. "Do you remember how you 
had him put in a tarred barrel together with your daughter 
Tsarevna Marya and cast into the sea? Well, I am that same 

Emelya. If I choose, I can set fire to your whole tsardom and 
level it with the ground." 






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The Tsar was very frightened and he begged Emelya to 
forgive him. 

"You can have my daughter in marriage and you can have 
my tsardom, too, only spare me, Emelya,* said he. 

Then such a grand feast was held as the world had never 
seen. Emelya married Tsarevna Marya and began to rule the 
realm and they both lived happily ever after. 

And that is my faithful tale's end, while he who listened is 

my own true friend. 




63 




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ong, long ago, in a certain tsardom there lived an old man 
and an old woman and their daughter Vasilisa. They had 
only a small hut for a home, but their life was a peaceful and 
happy one. 

However, even the brightest of skies may become overcast, 
and misfortune stepped over their threshold at last. The old 
woman fell gravely ill and, feeling that her end was near, 
she called Vasilisa to her bedside, gave her a little doll, and 
said: 

"Do as I tell you, my child. Take good care of this little doll 
and never show it to anyone. If ever anything bad happens 
to you, give the doll something to eat and ask its advice. It will 
help you out in all your troubles." 

And, giving Vasilisa a last, parting kiss, the old woman 
died. 

The old man sorrowed and grieved for a time, and then he 
married again. He had thought to give Vasilisa a second 
mother, but he gave her a cruel stepmother instead. 

The stepmother had two daughters of her own, two of the 
most spiteful, mean and hard to please young women that ever 
lived. The stepmother loved them dearly and was always kissing 


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and coddling them, but she nagged at Vasilisa and never let her 
have a moment's peace. Vasilisa felt very unhappy, for her 
stepmother and stepsisters kept chiding and scolding her and 
making her work beyond her strength. They hoped that she 
would grow thin and haggard with too much work and that her 
f ace would turn dark and ugly in the wind and sun. All day long 
they were at her, one or the other of them, shouting: 

"Come, Vasilisa! Where are you, Vasilisa? Fetch the wood, 
don't be slow! Start a fire, mix the dough! Wash the plates, milk 
the cow! Scrub the floor, hurry now! Work away and don't take 
all day!" 

Vasilisa did all she was told to do, she waited on everyone 
and always got her chores done on time. And with every day 
that passed she grew more and more beautiful. Such was her 
beauty as could not be pictured and could not be told, but was 
a true wonder and joy to behold. And it was her little doll that 
helped Vasilisa in everything. 

Early in the morning Vasilisa would milk the cow and then, 
locking herself in in the pantry, she would give some milk to 
the doll and say : 

"Come, little doll, drink your milk, my dear, and I'll pour 
out all my troubles in your ear, your ear ! " 

And the doll would drink the milk and comfort Vasilisa and 
do all her work for her. Vasilisa would sit in the shade twining 
flowers into her braid and, before she knew it, the vegetable 
beds were weeded, the water brought in, the fire lighted and the 


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cabbage watered. The doll showed her a herb to be used against 
sun-burn, and Vasilisa used it and became more beautiful 

than ever. 

One day, late in the fall, the old man set out from home and 
was not expected back for some time. 

The stepmother and the three sisters were left alone. They 
sat in the hut and it was dark outside and raining and the wind 
was howling. The hut stood at the edge of a dense forest and in 
the forest there lived Baba-Yaga, a cunning witch and sly, who 
gobbled people up in the wink of an eye. 

Now to each of the three sisters the stepmother gave some 
work to do: the first she set to weaving lace, the second to 
knitting stockings, and Vasilisa to spinning yarn. Then, putting 
out all the lights in the house except for a single splinter of 
birch that burnt in the corner where the three sisters were 
working, she went to bed. 

The splinter crackled and snapped for a time, and then 
went out. 

"What are we to do?" cried the stepmother's two daughters. 
"It is dark in the hut, and we must work. One of us will have 
to go to Baba-Yaga's house to ask for a light." 

•I'm not going," said the elder of the two. "I am making lace, 
and my needle is bright enough for me to see by." 

"I'm not going, either,’ said the second. "I am knitting 
stockings, and my two needles are bright enough for me to 
see by.' 


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Then, both of them shouting: 'Vasilisa is the one, she must 
go for the light! Go to Baba-Yaga's house this minute, Vasilisa!" 
they pushed Vasilisa out of the hut. 

The blackness of night was about her, and the dense forest, 
and the wild wind. Vasilisa was frightened, she burst into tears 
and she took out her little doll from her pocket. 

'O my dear little doll," she said between sobs, "they are 
sending me to Baba-Yaga's house for a light, and Baba-Yaga 
gobbles people up, bones and all," 

"Never you mind," the doll replied, "you'll be all right. 
Nothing bad can happen to you while I'm with you." 

"Thank you for comforting me, little doll," said Vasilisa, and 
she set off on her way. 

About her the forest rose like a wall and, in the sky above, 
there was no sign of the bright crescent moon and not a star 
shone. 

Vasilisa walked along trembling and holding the little doll 
close. 

All of a sudden whom should she see but a man on horseback 
galloping past. He was clad all in white, his horse was white 
and the horse's harness was of silver and gleamed white in the 
darkness. 

It was dawning now, and Vasilisa trudged on, stumbling and 
stubbing her toes against tree roots and stumps. Drops of dew 
glistened on her long plait of hair and her hands were cold and 
numb. 




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Suddenly another horseman came galloping by. He was 
dressed in red, his horse was red and the horse's harness was 
red too. 

The sun rose, it kissed Vasilisa and warmed her and dried 
the dew on her hair. 

Vasilisa never stopped but walked on for a whole day, and 
it was getting on toward evening when she came out on to a 
small glade. 

She looked, and she saw a hut standing there. The fence round 
the hut was made of human bones and crowned with human 
skulls. The gate was no gate but the bones of men's legs, the 
bolts were no bolts but the bones of men's arms, and the lock 
was no lock but a set of sharp teeth. 

Vasilisa was horrified and stood stock-still. Suddenly a horse- 
man came riding up. He was dressed in black, his horse was 
black and the horse's harness was black too. The horseman 
galloped up to the gate and vanished as if into thin air. 

Night descended, and lo! the eyes of the skulls crowning the 
fence began to glow, and it became as light as if it was day. 

Vasilisa shook with fear. She could not move her feet which 
seemed to have frozen to the spot and refused to carry her away 
from this terrible place. 

All of a sudden, she felt the earth trembling and rocking 
beneath her, and there was Baba-Yaga flying up in a mortar, 
swinging her pestle like a whip and sweeping the tracks away 
with a broom. She flew up to the gate and, sniffing the air, 
cried : 



72 



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73 


"I smell Russian flesh ! Who is here?" 

Vasilisa came up to Baba-Yaga, bowed low to her and said 
very humbly: 

"It is I, Vasilisa, Grandma. My stepsisters sent me to you to 
ask for a light." 

"Oh, it's you, is it?" Baba-Yaga replied. "Your stepmother is 
a kinswoman of mine. Very well, then, stay with me for a while 
and work, and then we'll see what is to be seen." 

And she shouted at the top of her voice : 

"Come unlocked, my bolts so strong! Open up, my gate so 
wide I " 

The gate swung open, Baba-Yaga rode in in her mortar and 
Vasilisa walked in behind her. 

Now at the gate there grew a birch-tree and it made as if to 
lash Vasilisa with its branches. 

"Do not touch the maid, birch-tree, it was I who brought 
her," said Baba-Yaga. 

They came to the house, and at the door there lay a dog and 
it made as if to bite Vasilisa. 

"Do not touch the maid, it was I who brought her," said 
Baba-Yaga. 

They came inside and in the passage an old grumbler-rumbler 
of a cat met them and made as if to scratch Vasilisa. 

"Do not touch the maid, you old grumbler-rumbler of a cat, 
it was I who brought her," said Baba-Yaga. 

"You see, Vasilisa," she added, turning to her, "it is not easy 
to run away from me. My cat will scratch you, my dog will bite 








75 






you, my birch-tree will lash you, and put out your eyes, and my 
gate will not open to let you out." 

Baba-Yaga came into her room, and she stretched out on 
a bench. 

"Come, black-browed maid, give us something to eat," she 
cried. 

And the black-browed maid ran in and began to feed Baba- 
Yaga. She brought her a pot of borshch and half a cow, ten 
jugs of milk and a roasted sow, twenty chickens and forty 
geese, two whole pies and an extra piece, cider and mead 
and home-brewed ale, beer by the barrel and kvass by the 
pail. 

Baba-Yaga ate and drank up everything, but she only gave 
Vasilisa a chunk of bread. 

"And now, Vasilisa," said she, "take this sack of millet and 
pick it over seed by seed. And mind that you take out all the 
black bits, for if you don't I shall eat you up." 

And Baba-Yaga closed her eyes and began to snore. 

Vasilisa took the piece of bread, put it before her little doll 
and said: 

"Come, little doll, eat this bread, my dear, and I'll pour out 
all my troubles in your ear, your ear ! Baba-Yaga has given me 

a hard task to do, and she threatens to eat me up if I do not 
do it." 

Said the doll in reply: 

"Do not grieve and do not weep, but close your eyes and go 
to sleep. For morning is wiser than evening." 







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And the moment Vasilisa was asleep, the doll called out in 
a loud voice : 

"Tomtits, pigeons , sparrows, hear me. 

There is work to do, I tear me. 

On your help, my leathered triends, 

Vasilisa's lite depends. 

Come in answer to my call. 

You are needed, one and all." 

And the birds came flying from all sides, flocks and flocks of 
them, more than eye could see or tongue could tell. They began 
to chirp and to coo, to set up a great to-do, and to pick over the 
millet seed by seed very quickly indeed. Into the sack the good 
seeds went, and the black went into the crop, and before they 
knew it the night was spent, and the sack was filled to the top. 

They had only just finished when the white horseman gallop- 
ed past the gate on his white horse. Day was dawning. 

Baba-Yaga woke up and asked : 

"Have you done what I told you to do, Vasilisa?" 

"Yes, it's all done, Grandma." 

Baba-Yaga was very angry, but there was nothing more to 
be said. 

"Humph," she snorted, "I am off to hunt and you take that 
sack yonder, it's filled with peas and poppy seeds, pick out the 
peas from the seeds and put them in two separate heaps. And 
mind, now, if your do not do it, I shall eat you up," 

Baba-Yaga went out into the yard and whistled, and the 
mortar and pestle swept up to her. 




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The red horseman galloped past, and the sun rose. 

Baba-Yaga got into the mortar and rode out of the yard, 
swinging her pestle like a whip and whisking the tracks away 
with a broom. 

Vasilisa took a crust of bread, fed her little doll and said: 

"Do take pity on me, little doll, my dear, and help me out." 

And the doll called out in ringing tones : 

"Come to me, o mice of the house, the barn and the field, for 
there is work to be done ! " 

And the mice came running, swarms and swarms of them, 
more than eye could see or tongue could tell, and before the 
hour was up the work was all done. 

It was getting on toward evening, and the black -browed maid 
set the table and began to wait for Baba-Yaga's return. 

The black horseman galloped past the gate, night fell, and 
the eyes of the skulls crowning the fence began to glow. And 
now the trees groaned and crackled, the leaves rustled, and 
Baba-Yaga, the cunning witch and sly, who gobbled people up 
in the wink of an eye came riding home, 

"Have you done what I told you to do, Vasilisa?" she asked. 

"Yes, it's all done. Grandma." 

Baba-Yaga was very angry, but what could she say! 

"Well, then, go to bed, I am going to turn in myself in a 
minute." 

Vasilisa went behind the stove, and she heard Baba-Yaga say : 

"Light the stove, black-browed maid, and make the fire hot. 
When I wake up, I shall roast Vasilisa." 


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79 


And Baba-Yaga lay down on a bench, placed her chin on 
a shelf, covered herself with her foot and began to snore so 
loudly that the whole forest trembled and shook. 

Vasilisa burst into tears and, taking out her doll, put a crust 
of bread before it. 

"Come, little doll, have some bread, my dear, and I'll pour 
out all my troubles in your ear, your ear. For Baba-Yaga wants 
to roast me and to eat me up," said she. 

And the doll told her what she must do to get out of trouble 
without more ado. 

Vasilisa rushed to the black-browed maid and bowed low 
to her. 

"Please, black-browed maid, help me!" she cried. "When you 
are lighting the stove, pour water over the wood so it does not 
burn the way it should. Here is my silken kerchief for you to 
reward you for your trouble." 

Said the black-browed maid in reply; 

"Very well, my dear, I shall help you. I shall take a long 
time heating the stove, and I shall tickle Baba-Yaga's heels and 
scratch them too so she may sleep very soundly the whole night 
through. And you run away, Vasilisa!" 

"But won't the three horsemen catch me and bring me 
back?" 

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"Oh, no," replied the black-browed maid. "The white horse- 
man is the bright day, the red horseman is the golden sun, and 
the black horseman is the black night, and they will not touch 



Vasilisa ran out into the passage, and Grumblet-Rumbler the 
Cat rushed at her and was about to scratch her. But she threw 
him a pie, and he did not touch her. 

Vasilisa ran down from the porch, and the dog darted out 
and was about to bite her. But she threw him a piece of bread, 
and the dog let her go. 

Vasilisa started running out of the yard, and the birch-tree 
tried to lash her and to put out her eyes. But she tied it with 
a ribbon, and the birch-tree let her pass. 

The gate was about to shut before her, but Vasilisa greased 
its hinges, and it swung open. 

Vasilisa ran into the dark forest, and just then the black 
horseman galloped by and it became pitch black all around. 
How was she to go back home without a light? What would she 
say ? Why, her stepmother would do her to death. So she asked 
her little doll to help her and did what the doll told her to do. 

She took one of the skulls from the fence and, mounting it on 
a stick, set off across the forest. Its eyes glowed, and by their 
light the dark night was as bright as day. 

As for Baba-Yaga, she woke up and stretched and, seeing that 
Vasilisa was gone, rushed out into the passage. 

"Did you scratch Vasilisa as she ran past. Grumbler- 
Rumbler?" she demanded. 

And the cat replied : 

"No, I let her pass, for she gave me a pie. I served you for 
ten years, Baba-Yaga, but you never gave me so much as a crust 
of bread." 



Baba-Yaga rushed out into the yard. 

"Did you bite Vasilisa, ray faithful dog?" she demanded. 

Said the dog in reply : 

"No, I let her pass, for she gave me some bread. I served 
you for ever so many years, but you never gave me so much 
as a bone." 

"Birch-tree, birch-tree!" Baba-Yaga roared. "Did you put out 
Vasilisa's eyes for her?" 

Said the birch-tree in reply : 

"No, I let her pass, for she bound my branches with a ribbon. 
I have been growing here for ten years, and you never even tied 
them with a string," 

Baba-Yaga ran to the gate. 

"Gate, gatel" she cried. "Did you shut before her that Vasilisa 
might not pass?" 

Said the gate in reply : 

"No, I let her pass, for she greased my hinges. I served you 
for ever so long, but you never even put water on them." 

Baba-Yaga flew into a temper. She began to beat the dog and 
thrash the cat, to break down the gate and to chop down the 
birch- tree, and she was so tired by then that she forgot all about 
Vasilisa. 

Vasilisa ran home, and she saw that there was no light on in 
the house. Her stepsisters rushed out and began to chide and 
scold her. 

"What took you so long fetching the light?" they demanded. 
"We cannot seem to keep one on in the house at all. We have 



tried to strike a light again and again but to no avail, and the 
one we got from the neighbours went out the moment it was 
brought in. Perhaps yours will keep burning." 

They brought the skull into the hut, and its eyes fixed them- 
selves on the stepmother and her two daughters and burnt them 
like fire. The stepmother and her daughters tried to hide but, 
run where they would, the eyes followed them and never let 
them out of their sight. 

By morning they were burnt to a cinder, all three, and only 
Vasilisa remained unharmed. 

She buried the skull outside the hut, and a bush of red roses 
grew up on the spot. 

After that, not liking to stay in the hut any longer, Vasilisa 
went into the town and made her home in the house of an old 
woman. 

One day she said to the old woman: 

"I am bored sitting around doing nothing. Grandma. Buy me 
some flax, the best you can find." 

The old woman bought her some flax, and Vasilisa set to 
spinning yarn. She worked quickly and well, the spinning- 
wheel humming and the golden thread coming out as even and 
thin as a hair. She began to weave cloth, and it turned out so fine 
that it could be passed through the eye of a needle, like a thread. 
She bleached the cloth, and it came out whiter than snow. 

"Here, Grandma," said she, "go and sell the cloth and take 
the money for yourself." 

The old woman looked at the cloth and gasped. 




"No, my child, such cloth is only fit for a Tsarevich to wear, 
I had better take it to the palace." 

She took the cloth to the palace, and when the Tsarevich saw 
it, he was filled with wonder. 

"How much do you want for it?" he asked. 

"This cloth is too fine to be sold, I have brought it to. you for 
a present." 

The Tsarevich thanked the old woman, showered her with 
gifts and sent her home. 

But he could not find anyone to make him a shirt out of the 
cloth, for the workmanship had to be as fine as the fabric. So he 
sent for the old woman again and said : 

"You wove this fine doth, so you must know how to make 
a shirt out of it. " 

"It was not I that spun the yarn or wove the cloth, Tsarevich, 
but a maid named Vasilisa." 

"Well, then, let her make me a shirt." 

The old woman went home, and she told Vasilisa all about it. 

Vasilisa made two shirts, embroidered them with silken 
threads, studded them with large, round pearls and, giving them 
to the old woman to take to the palace, sat down at the window 
with a piece of embroidery. 

By and by whom should she see but one of the Tsar's servants 
come running toward her. 

1 

"The Tsarevich bids you come to the palace," said the servant. 

Vasilisa went to the palace and, seeing her, the Tsarevich 
was smitten with her beauty. 






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"I cannot bear to let you go away again, you shall be my 
wife," said he. 

He took both her milk-white hands in his and he placed her 
in the seat beside his own. 

And so Vasilisa and the Tsarevich were married, and, when 
Vasilisa's father returned soon afterwards, he made his home 
in the palace with them. 

Vasilisa took the old woman to live with her too, and, as for 
her little doll, she always carried it about with her in her 
pocket. 

And thus did they live for many a day and wait for us all 
to come for a stay. 




CONTENTS 


THE FIRE-BIRD 
Translated by Bernard Isaacs 



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Printed in the Onion of Soviet Socialist Republics 


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